Dec 11 2015
It’s been fun watching the career of violinist Adam Baldych develop over time. Of particular interest has been the number of collaborative projects he’s involved himself in that feature different pianists. I first became acquainted with his music back in 2011 and his excellent recording Magical Theatre. It’s an album with immense melodic depth and some well-placed dramatic surges to really get those melodies to shine brightly. It also saw Baldych in a piano-less quintet. But since that recording, Baldych had joined forces with pianists Iiro Rantala, Yaron Herman and Jacob Karlzon , and each instance has resulted in Baldych wielding tighter lyrical control. His expressions have become more concise, and the dramatic intensity he dished out so generously on Magical Theatre is now served up with a sharper clarity. His newest recording, Bridges, matches him up with another pianist, Helge Lien, and the Helge Lien Trio for a delightful storybook session.
The title-track opens the album with thin filaments of melody that slowly intertwine into a woven pattern that is quite striking. The song is firmly in the modern jazz-folk music territory that both artists have camped out in previously, where ambiance and atmospherics are the driving forces. It’s typical of about half of the recording, and it’s nicely complemented by a series of tunes that hone the melodies as a way of crafting song structures that rival the catchiness of pop tunes while retaining the intricacies and flavor of music of a finer vintage.
“Polesie” is the first statement of intent to chart this course, and subsequent track “Mosaic” expands on it with a more textured, and effusive, interplay between the melodic and rhythmic elements. It’s also the first real show of the quartet’s method of allowing both the jazz and folk influences to express themselves with greater individual authority, and not get so caught up in maintaining level ratios of one to the other. In fact, those wild swings from jazz influence to folk to a midway point are a nifty indirect method of bringing some drama to the affair.
“Riese” is a bit amorphous, but it does make regular pit stops at the melody. “Requiem,” on the other hand, is a thick wall of mist that gives the impression of motion. It’s not dissimilar to the effect of “Karina,” though in this instance, the melody is the emergent factor in fueling the song with a huge burst of propulsion.
“Dreamer” has a melody that’s plenty addictive and a cadence as welcoming as a warm smile that means it. “Missing You” doesn’t dial it back much either, though it provides Baldych and Lien some space to take flight with a couple fitting solos. “Up” jacks up the voltage big time, and though it often feels ready to burst at the seams, the layering across of solos with tiny emphases of the melody elicits a surging momentum that is as much about cohesion as it does intensity.
The album ends a bit flat. The tune “Lovers” teases with melodic intent, but never really commits to it, and then the finale, a by-the-numbers rendition of Massive Attack’s “Teardrop” that doesn’t really possesses any kind of notable personality that would indicate why it was even included on the album in the first place. But these are small criticisms of an album that has plenty enjoyment to offer.
Your album personnel: Adam Bałdych (violin), Helge Lien (piano), Frode Berg (bass) and Per Oddvar Johansen (drums).
Released on ACT Music.
Available at: Amazon